We are advising all students leaving their accommodation due to universities closing, to ask their agencies and landlords to terminate their tenancies.
Currently, the government has only protected tenants from eviction and is advicing landlords to be flexible regarding rent payments, but has not provided any specific legal support for students moving back to their family home due to the crisis.
However, we understand that there is still grounds to terminate tenancies due to the virus. The government’s current social distancing measures encourage everyone to avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces. For example pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together. Specifically, they are asking people to avoid gatherings with friends, which is impossible when living in student accommodation which often include shared kitchens and bathrooms.
Furthermore, some tenancies include an emergency clause to terminate the agreement. This clause explains that in certain circumstances the property could be considered uninhabitable or unfit to live and therefore the agreement could be terminated. This can be especially useful for those people who are vulnerable, for example those suffering from asthma or diabetes, who can no longer live in this kind of accommodation, and may require care from family members.
It is also worth noting that some landlords, have already allowed their students to terminate their contracts, such as the University of Liverpool. The world of student letting is highly competitive, and trying to profit off of the current crisis could be seen to reflect very badly on the reputation of many agencies.
This is our advice:
1. Contact your agency or landlord as soon as possible to explain to them that you have to terminate your tenancy. If possible mention any health conditions or losses to your income due to the virus.
2. Unless there is any particularity in your case (such as a health condition), get in contact with your flatmates and other tenants to raise concerns, and act, together. It is harder to ignore or punish a collective response.
3. Try to avoid any repayment plans or deposit deductions, as the property is vacated and they can make any use of it.
4. If you do not initially get a positive response, stop paying your rent installments. As previously noted evictions are no longer permissible by the Government due to the corona. As long as you have not paid this rent, you can still negotiate if necessary, or have your tenancy cancelled.
If you would like any further support, either as guidance or to take further actions than those outlined above, then please get in touch.